copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
On this fine day in February 2009, President Barack Obama submitted his budget blueprint. For the first time, in near a decade, transparency is built into a national financial plan. The tremendous costs to wage the two wars America is engaged in are no longer hidden. Outlays for military offenses have been written into the ledger, and not in the traditional invisible ink. While one might think fiscal and political Conservatives would be pleased, upon receipt of the document, Republicans immediately pounced. Senator Judd Greggspoke on the Grand Old Party's behalf when he asked, "Where is the restraint in spending?"
America attacked its adversaries with borrowed money and on time borrowed from the brood.
As long as parents did not have to pay, or see the billions of bites taken from fruits reserved for their offspring, war, or supplementary spending was wonderful. What is not so glorious for the wealthy are the words of President Obama, or his plan to pay as we go.
"Having inherited a trillion-dollar deficit that will take a long time for us to close, we need to focus on what we need to move the economy forward, not on what's nice to have," Mister Obama said. This statement did not make sense to Conservatives who rather do as the previous Administration had allowed them to do, trade common "cents" for an economic crisis.
Comfortable with artificial caps or spending, repeatedly supplemented, Republicans reacted poorly to the introduction of fiscal responsibility in the Obama Recovery Plan. Intermittently the "Right" expresses concern for the children. Nonetheless, each rant raises what seems to be the more real issue, taxes.
Indeed, in the past, Progressives pondered levees. Most Democrats wondered why Americans were not asked to sacrifice for two wars fought on credit. It all began early in President George W. Bush's first term. The date, September 11, 2001 will live in infamy. The Council on Foreign Relations explained this in a report.
Following 9/11, the United States launched new military endeavors on a number of fronts, including in Iraq. Estimates for the total costs of these efforts remain sharply politicized. Costs have consistently outpaced government predictions. In September 2002, White House economic adviser Lawrence B. Lindsey estimated the cost of invading Iraq could amount to between $100 billion and $200 billion. Mitch Daniels, who at the time headed the White House budget office, called Lindsey's estimates "very, very high" (MSNBC) and said the war would cost $50 billion to $60 billion; shortly thereafter, Lindsey left the White House.
In January 2004, a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the total costs of Iraq's reconstruction would land between $50 billion and $100 billion. But in October 2007, the CBO said in a new report that the United States had already spent $368 billion on its military operations in Iraq, $45 billion more in related services (veterans care, diplomatic services, training), and nearly $200 billion on top of that in Afghanistan.
American initiated battles blazed abroad. No money was allocated to pay for the combat. Billions were kept off the books. American babies were blinded from the truth. Their parents placed a financial burden on them that could not be calculated.
Each year, with hat in hand, Commander-In-Chief George W. Bush came to Congress and said, cost cannot be a consideration. We must protect our borders. The compassionate Conservative Bush assured Senators and Representatives alike, inclusive of Judd Gregg who now reels over the cost of the Obama fiscal plan. The country must be made safe for your brood and mine.
Although the past President knew the battles would be protracted, and said so often, he never accounted for the projected expenditures in his budgets. Very early on, the Bush Administration was asked to design a plan for war-related costs. However, the White House ignored such silly suggestions. Congress too did not comply with a request to consider the cash flow.
Iraq Supplemental Requires Transparency
Revenue Watch Institute
Congress must insist that clearly defined standards of transparency are incorporated into the $87 billion appropriation for Iraq. Congress must require the President to submit at minimum a quarterly report, detailing the processes by which US funds are disbursed in Iraq, under the conditions elaborated below.
Recommended Legislative Language:?
No competitive or non-competitive contracting or purchase activities may be undertaken using any of these funds unless the President certifies that the International Advisory and Monitoring Board mandated by Resolution 1483 has been established, and submits a quarterly report detailing:
- The extent of Iraqi consultation and participation in the contracting and purchase agreement process.
- Actions taken to be in compliance with the transparency obligations of UN Resolution 1483. ?An independent cost and capacity estimate of the activity in question.
- In cases where non-Iraqi sources are awarded contracts, an explanation demonstrating that Iraqi companies lack the necessary resources and experience to perform the service at the independently estimated cost, and/or within a reasonable time frame.
- In cases where a no-bid contracting process is employed, a detailed justification for the non-competitive tender, including a demonstration that this justification was made available to the Iraqi public.
(An Iraqi Public Finance Oversight Board should be established as a formal channel to achieve an acceptable level of Iraqi consultation for all large-purchase contracting activities undertaken with these funds. The International Advisory and Monitoring Board, as mandated under Res. 1483, should be empowered to audit all aspects of Development Fund for Iraq. . . .
None of these possibilities were put in place. No one believes the proposal was even taken under advisement. Instead, the Bush Cheney Administration moved into foreign terrain ready for a fight. Documents that might help determine the dollars needed to do these deeds were not sent to the House or Senate in advance. Budgetary reviews for defense spending were deliberately shortsighted More was left out than included in ledgers. Emergency Supplemental funds were requested each year.
In 2001 and thereafter, no one complained, at least not loudly, certainly not the Republicans who now demand we attend to our children's inheritance. How might one argue against the need to protect the country, care for its citizens, and pay for the soldiers who keep this country safe?
Conservatives, in the early years of combat were gleeful with Congressional control. They coalesced. Democrats, defeated, chose to forfeit dignity and duty. Progressives no longer believed they had the power to do what was right. Resigned to the will of the President and his "people," the Left relented. Legislators looked the other way when the economic experts strongly stated more money is needed. Supplemental funds, off budget show support for the soldiers.
On September 8, (2003) the White House requested an additional $87 billion of funding to cover the continued occupation and reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2004. Of this $87 billion, $66 billion will be for military operations, and $21 billion will be for reconstruction in Iraq.
Congress caved. Trillions trickled out of the country. A few at home profited from the Shock and Awe plan. However, no one wished to speak of Halliburton, the ties that remained to Vice President Cheney, or the off-the-book expense of wars.
For persons affiliated with the Administration, defense contracts, no bid agreements to facilitate the folly known as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the monetary Mission was Accomplished. However, for the majority of Americans, the loss of credibility, lives, limbs, and cash was a failure.
Citizens feel the calamity in an economic crisis. Yet, Republican Representatives wish to blame Barack Obama for a budget, which will not hide such outrageous costs.
The CBO [Congressional Budget Office] now estimates the costs of the Iraq war, projected out through 2017, might top $1 trillion, plus an extra $705 billion in interest payments., The total cost of Iraq and Afghanistan combined could reach $2.4 trillion.
Some experts say even those figures underestimate the true price tag. Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and former economic adviser to President Bill Clinton, projected in a 2006 paper (PDF) with another economist, Linda Bilmes, that the total macroeconomic costs of the Iraq war itself would surpass $2 trillion. This analysis differs from that of the CBO, which measured only the war's budgetary impact. Stiglitz and Bilmes also predict a somewhat higher budgetary impact than the CBO did, though the CBO responds at the end of its 2007 report that some of the difference may be accounted for by factors like inflation and standard pay increases that have little to do with the Iraq war itself.
More recently, a group of Democrats on the U.S. congressional Joint Economic Committee released a report estimating the total long-term cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan would range between $2.6 trillion and $4.5 trillion, depending on how quickly forces are drawn down. These figures drew pointed criticisms from congressional Republicans, who released a statement (PDF) citing dozens of errors in the report's findings, some of which were subsequently changed.
Yes, the Republicans actively repute all claims of cost overruns. For them, money spent on military actions were and are justified. The real issue, for the "Right" while subterranean, was revealed; as long as taxes were not raised on their personal wealth "fiscal Conservatives" felt fine.
During the Bush years, Republicans had reason to feel content. Those who want no new taxes had a friend in the White House who would hide the costs of combat. Thus, then, concern was not expressed for the children, the credit crisis, or what these irresponsible parents caused.
Republicans would rather be critical of the Democrats for too many dollars spent and the way the Obama plan proposes to reduce the deficit. "On the backs of the rich," those who think themselves "Right" rage. Perchance it is important to peruse the books. Republican rants may not reveal what detailed reports do. Today, if the government continues to fund its fights on credit, as the Bush White House did, our progeny will inherit what prosperous parents refused to pay for with cash.
Comparing the Defense Budget to the Total Economy
The U.S. defense budget has risen over the past decade but remains substantially lower than historical levels when considered as a percentage of U.S. GDP. President Bush requested $481.4 billion in discretional spending for the Department of Defense's 2008 budget. That figure does not include any of the spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been paid for primarily through "emergency supplemental requests" that are not included in the federal budget's accounting. War spending is expected to tally to roughly $193 billion in 2008, an increase of $22 billion, or roughly 13 percent, over 2007 expenditures . . .
Allocations toward the "Global War on Terrorism," which exceed $145 billion for 2008, also fall outside the U.S. defense budget, and do not include the war-budget supplements. . . .
In a global context, U.S. spending on military-related endeavors ranks high. According to 2005 data from SIPRI (PDF), the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States spends substantially more on military endeavors than any country in the world. If war spending and allocations to the "Global War on Terror" are excluded, the U.S. military budget is still more than seven times that of its next closest competitor, China. If you include those other expenditures, U.S. military spending surpasses that of all other countries in the world combined.
That thought alone is awesome. Rather than build a better world, engage in diplomatic talks with other nations, provide for peaceful negotiations, prepare American children for careers, prevent illness, care for the injured, or maintain the infrastructure . . . all of which would better the world for our offspring, the Bush Administration spent trillions on destructive warfare.
In the early years, the White House depleted a budget surplus for much of the money. Some of the dollars came from the taxes paid by poor and Middle Class. The super-rich Republicans were asked to contribute a lesser percent of their income. When dollars from duties were exhausted, the Bush White House sought more funds from creditors.
Grand Old Party politicians, with the help of weakened Democrats, allowed the last Administration to squander more money than is possible to fathom on an unnecessary war. No thought for the future of our children was mentioned.
Yet, today, with the introduction of a budget that calls for a reduction in troops and defense allocations, Republicans rage. They do not wish to recognize that the previous White House already sacrificed the safety and fiscal sanity of the Seventh Generation.
Until today, the Grand Old Party could not be bothered with war costs written into the budget. Republicans did not ask, "where is the restraint in spending?" Those on the "Right" played with the people's money as though it or they were mad, and now, on this fine February day, with a transparent plan delivered, Conservatives clamor, what of the children.
Cost of War Off Budget . . .
- Judd Gregg Criticizes Obama Budget. By Ken Strickland. MSNBC News. February 26, 2009
- U.S. Senator Judd Gregg. US Senator New Hampshire.
- War Against Terror. Cable News Network.
- Obama Plans Major Shifts in Spending, By Jackie Calmes and Robert Pear. The New York Times. February 26, 2009
- Cheney's Halliburton Ties Remain, Contrary To Veep's Claims, Researchers Say Financial Links Remain. By Jarrett Murphy. CBS News.September 26, 2003
- Total cost of the Iraq and Afghan Wars. Council on Foreign Relations
- Democratic Joint Economic Committee Report's Errors Allowed to Stand. By Representative Saxton, Chris Frenze, Senator Brownback, Bryan Sanders.. November 14, 2007
- Cost of Iraq war could surpass $1 trillion. By Martin Wolk. MSNBC News. March 17, 2006
- Bush rejects calls to end war, wants gradual troop withdrawals, By Anne Gearan. Boston Globe. September 13, 2007
- 110th Congress-Defense Spending Issue Looms, Michael Moran. Council on Foreign Relations
- Paying for Iraq's Reconstruction. Congressional Budget Office. January 4, 2007
- Fiscal 2008 Department of Defense Budget Released. U.S. Department of Defense. February 5, 2007
- Encore, By Linda Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz. Forth Quarter 2006